As I left the Room of Requirements behind, I once again found myself nothing to do, at least nothing immediately urgent.
After a brief consideration, I decided to visit Snape's Cottage. Ginny's offhand comments about Snape had reminded me that I had neglected to search his cottage. With everything going on, it was safer to check whether he had anything hidden there in the first place. Snape was a wily opponent, after all, and the only reason I was able to take him down was the trust he had toward Draco.
An ironic end for a double-agent.
A brief stop by the Vice Headmaster's office — currently occupied by Carrows — revealed Snape's address, though, to be on the safe side, I had apparated two miles away from the place.
And it was a good thing that I did, because as I walked toward the cottage, most of my detection spells started to come up with some kind of spell. It started small, like muggle repelling wards, but quickly escalated into a deadly level.
Even without being there, he was creating a lot of problems for me.
Technically, with Elder Wand in my hands, I shouldn't be afraid of any magical trap. Unfortunately, that was Dumbledore's exact thought process while he was exploring Riddle's cottage, ultimately causing his death.
So, I decided to act safer. First, I apparated away, only to visit a muggle hospital and stole an air-tight protective suit, which, despite its ugly yellow color, allowed me not to breathe anything potentially deadly. A sensible precaution since I was about to burst into a paranoid potions master. But that was just a start. I had spent the next hour enchanting the suit with everything I could think of, an unbreakable, nonstick surface; closed, everlasting air supply; a rotating copper shield that always covered my back away from me to prevent ambushes; a magical shield to prevent most spells other than unforgivables, which, to my knowledge, impossible to be stored in a ward as a trap; even self-sustaining floating capabilities that would only trigger if suddenly lost consciousness.
It took a lot of effort, and even worse, squeezing that many spells in one item weren't exactly sustainable. All that effort, and I doubted it would last more than an hour, and even that required several spells to stabilize its structure.
But all that effort was not in vain, as the closer I got to the entrance, the danger level only increased, traps ranging from rolling boulder to sudden explosions of poisonous gas, and they were only the mundane kind.
The dark spells that filled the perimeter were completely even worse than I expected. Exotic dark curses, most of it I failed to recognize, and the minority I had managed to identify would have required several curse breakers working in tandem to break safely if it wasn't for the ridiculous power boost from the Elder Wand.
No wonder Riddle was currently busy in a complicated treasure hunt trying to find it.
My approach to the magical defenses was simple. Dispel everything from a distance carefully, and dismantle the wards carefully. And most importantly, be ready to apparate away if I managed to trigger a trap that my tools were unable to handle.
I was curious about Snape's secrets, but not enough to actually risk my life for them.
As I continued trudging, taking down a mind-numbing number of wards, I finally arrived at his cottage. After all the traps I had to wade through, combined with Snape's usual hygiene standards, I expected a place that could be used to shoot a horror film.
I met with a cottage in the middle of a lovely meadow, surrounded by a well-maintained grass garden, flower beds, and a cute pond at the corner. Despite the beautiful view, I frowned, because I had trouble believing Snape was living there. It didn't fit him at all.
Unless he had someone to share, I thought, unable to prevent a frown blooming. With his bitter, obsessive personality, I was having trouble Snape courting a woman.
I found myself going deeper into the place, unable to reject the temptation of curiosity — though that didn't mean my cautiousness dropped. On the contrary, I walked even slower as I walked inside.
The cottage itself was equally mysterious, decorated softly. I was even more surprised when I arrived at the bathroom and found several female hygiene products of muggle variety, pink toothbrushes, deodorants, and makeup, all of them still in their package, untouched.
"The mystery deepens," I murmured as I continued exploring, still careful even though I found no trap inside the house. I couldn't risk it being a preparation for a huge trap.
Yet, even as I moved deeper into the house, I failed to find anything suspicious. If it wasn't for the huge potions laboratory, filled with an incredible number of rare and precious potion ingredients, I might have assumed this place to be a decoy.
I finished searching the house, but I found nothing extraordinary, or any residue of a woman actually living, just many items prepared for the eventuality.
My patience paid off, and after twenty minutes of casting every single revealing charm along the house, one of them finally triggered a secret entrance. Unable to help myself, I went down the tunnel. The protections down there was significantly laxer, as any heavy-duty ward could have been detected from outside, ruining the point of a hidden entrance.
That didn't change the fact that my walk was slow and frustrating, trying to be on the safe side. Yet, just like the cottage itself, there was no trap, nor anything that could be even remotely dangerous, a great contrast with the surrounding area.
Finally, I arrived at a room, almost fifty feet underground, only to meet a shocking sight. A huge platform, lifting a crystal. And in that crystal, was a person. A person I recognized, but only through from Draco's memories, and even then, it came from a photograph.
A very sexy Lily Potter, wearing a beautiful green summer dress that highlighted her beauty, turning the crystal into a work of art.
Even more interesting, she wasn't a woman in her late thirties — not that it would have made her old, considering the incredibly slow aging speed of the magicals — but barely into her twenties, no different from her photos.
Such an interesting mystery.
"Wow," I said, unable to stop as I walked toward a nearby table, where several diaries were sprawled open. After a brief search, I had found the first entry.
'November 1, 1981
I have finally managed to stabilize her condition, but whatever spell Dark Lord had used had been much deadlier than I expected. I'm lucky to arrive on time. The simulacrum I had created had already passed Dumbledore's muster, and Dark Lord's disappearance is giving me time to save her. I just hope that the memory spell I cast on the Potter spawn will hold, not remembering my visit, and remembering Dark Lord casting an Avada Kedavra…'
"How interesting," I murmured as I started reading the diaries, though I had skipped most of the experiments. Apparently, Riddle had actually fulfilled his request to Snape and cast a non-lethal spell, though, much to Snape's distaste, it wasn't something that could be easily countered as well.
It was not hard to guess Riddle wanted to use Lily Potter as leverage against Snape. A smart precaution, though his downfall due to prophecy made Snape's life much harder, as he was unable to unravel that spell.
So, Snape spent all his fortune and genius to create a statis field, keeping Lily Potter young while he worked to dispel it, the challenge getting harder with each passing day. Still, as I read the experiments he conducted, the potions and spells he had invented and other aspects, I couldn't help but nod in respect.
I wish it was an option to work with him. With his genius, he had the potential to change the world. Unfortunately, the reveal of Lily Potter had thrown everything I knew about him in terms of Riddle and Dumbledore into question. I couldn't trust myself to handle and direct someone that run circles around two great — and crazy — wizards for almost two decades.
Of course, it had other implications, like whether the ghost of Lily Potter Harry had called during the battle was real. It might be just a difference between the universes, and only in this one did Lily Potter survive, but I wouldn't put over Dumbledore to arrange the whole thing beforehand with a fake stone to push Harry for his last sacrifice.
Either way, it was a question about the possible existence multiverse and its implications, something I was woefully inadequate to delve deeper into. Especially since I had no idea how I ended up in the body of Draco Malfoy in the first place.
Instead, I continued reading Snape's notes, trying to understand whether it was possible to actually cure her, or she was just an ornament for his obsessive mind to pine for. Several hours passed, forcing me to abandon my protective suit as the spells on it started to clash, but at this point, I was confident there was no trap in this room.
I couldn't imagine Snape risking even the slightest damage to her precious Lily.
Yet, as I reached the end of his notes, a huge smirk appeared on my face. That madman actually managed to find a way to solve the curse, only requiring a particularly strong spellcaster, at the level of Riddle or Dumbledore, or a tool…
Like the Elder Wand.
The last parts of his notes were mostly about getting the Elder Wand, but he was clearly afraid of actually getting that, even when Dumbledore was on the edge of death, fearing Riddle would target him next.
Not a bad idea, though it also showed he didn't truly understand how Elder Wand changed owners, not to mention him being overly cautious, waiting for Dumbledore's plan to work, dealing with Riddle, and getting rid of Harry in the process before he finally got Lily Potter — or more likely, Lily Evans as he remembered — all to himself.
Too bad for him that I would be the recipient of all his hard work, I thought even as I carefully cast the counterspells he recorded, resolving the curse that threatened her with death before shattering the crystal.
My reward, a very important, and very sexy redhead, collapsing to my arms…
Notes: The promised quick chapter is here. I hope everyone enjoyed the surprise addition.
And as usual pat re on dirk_grey for my originals.